interpreting texts

literacy teachers (which means ALL teachers ūüėČ ) stand to learn a lot from Margaret Atwood (of course – who else?).

today’s example brought to you by the current issue of maclean’s and the ontario elementary language curriculum:

“After so many books, she has learned that it is useless to try to point the reader in one direction or the other — they will take away exactly what they want to. “You’re not in control of how people read a book. They’re doing their own interpertation,” she says.” from Sister Atwood’s Travelling Salvation Show Maclean’s Oct 12th 2009 page 68.

Making Inferences/Interpreting Texts
1.5 develop and explain interpretations of
increasingly complex or difficult texts
using stated and implied ideas from the
texts to support their interpretations

Reading: 1. Reading for Meaning: Making Inferences/Interpreting Texts ¬†1.5 “develop and explain interpretations of¬†increasingly complex or difficult texts¬†using stated and implied ideas from the¬†texts to support their interpretations” from the¬†Ontario Language Curriculum document (this example is Gr 7 if you’re persnickety)

consider how this does not discuss “the” interpretation but “their own” and “interpretationS” i love that freedom.



there’s no end to how much i LOVE this. this reflects a personal philosophy and style, as well as something i was able to learn a little more first hand from some the wonderful people i worked with last year. ¬†i think the biggest challenge for classroom teachers is that to do this, we also have to trust ourselves. ¬† it does not always have to be planned, and long-range planned, and substitute-teacher planned, and short-range planned and visual-agenda planned {are teachers planners by nature? it’s getting a little out of hand} and scripted ahead of time {and yes, planning is important and perhaps teaching with INTENTION moreso}. ¬†we 100% do need to trust our students, and trust ourselves to teach them well.

go with them moment. let them show you the need. meet them and teach them where they are. listen.  HEAR THEM. we teach kids, not curriculum, right?

Trust: Two Writing Teachers blog

the way you make me feel/you knock me off of my feet

i am contemplating the very different effects books can have on the reader.  i am very curious about this.

i noticed that reading the Twilight series was like a high-speed immersion laced with urgency.  i am going to generalize that this is a common effect of the series on more than just myself Рthe  Twilight compulsion to read them all in a row in a tight time frame is much discussed, blogged and documented.

i felt that when i had to stop reading and put the book down, that the story was continuing without me, and i had to hurry to get back so as not to miss anything. like in harry potter, the book was full of moving scenes, lying on my dining table in full motion while i was folding laundry and missing it all.

i am at the moment deeply in love with The Little Book by Selden Edwards, but the reading effect is drastically different.¬† when i anticipate having to stop and put the book down, i have a moment’s feeling of anticipatory sadness and wistfulness, as if to say ‘i shall miss you’ and know that i have to begin the process of letting go.¬† rather than missing out on the story, i feel as though it slowly fades to black in tableau, and waits for my return.¬† similarly, when i pick the book up and resume reading, slowly the shadowed and dark images in my mind colour and brighten and envelop me into the story, and it stands like moving 3D pop-up in my mind, or like watching an old film reel, and i am again immersed. or like sticking my head into Dumbledore’s pensieve.

there’s my noticing.¬† now, my thinking on this… and i think i may never discover answers, but such is the beauty of reading.¬† what skills, traits of the writer imbue their work with qualities to affect this? are there specific words they use to make the reader unconsciously feel one way or another or another?¬† is it an indescribable je ne sais quoi that the writer possesses that just happens when they tell their story?¬† is this something another aspiring writer can learn to do, is this a seventh trait?¬† what is IT that makes the experience?¬† is it the story line itself?¬† the writing technique?¬† is one better than another?¬† does a writer consistently have the same effect in all their writings, or does it change by story?¬† how will i uncover answers?

what about you – have you discovered books that have had such effects on you, or different feelings? share effects or powerful books in the comments!

add some computer technology to make a story tableau come to life like wizard pictures from Harry Potter – learn how at Photojojo

how a small visualization helps me see her as a real person

have you seen the sticky notes in my book?  have you SEEN THEM??!  i have a lot.  i have to get going here.

i have some theories about some of the endless, repetitive, mundane things that our author has published for us.¬† i will save that for later, but it relates to what’s below.

p.33 my first thoughts when i read the following were along the lines of “whhhooooooo CARES. blah blah blah”.

When I was finished with that, I took my book bag upstairs. Before starting my homework, I changed into a pair of dry sweats, pulled my damp hair into a pony tail, and checked my e-mail for the first time.  I had three messages.

i tend to do the skim and scan and skip ahead thing when i read passages like this.¬† but a re-read and a pause to stop and think made me notice that these two sentences were making an image in my mind; I was visualizing as I read them.¬† More interestingly, visualizing the character doing these really mundane, normal, everyday, behind the scenes things was helping me to “see” her as a real person, as a person like me, or to see her/watch her as i would a friend.¬† If we really buy into the first-person narration, then visualizing this helps me to take on her perspective and be part of the action – to see “myself” looping my hair through my elastic etc (which my schema also helps me to do, and connect with).¬† I can continue on and understand the story without doing this, but I notice that this small moment is helping to make the reader and the character more intimate with each other.¬† Who’s she when she’s at home? This little bit of visualization helps me know her better.

how is twilight like anne of green gables?

thanks to dr. marian small { one two infinity }for the realization of how useful this question really is, and thanks to june 2009 chatelaine for provoking me to ask it.

quote, too old for twilight?

why are we too old for twilight, not admitting to enjoying it, apologizing for liking it, disparaging it, when we legitimately can enjoy it because it evokes authentic connections, albeit in a mythical, teenage context?  it is no more a book about and for teenagers and vampires than anne of green gables is about and for maritime, juvenile orphans.

think about that.

fictional-real-life inferring

hey bella, caught you inferring!¬† haha, not so funny {i get it}, yet highly entertaining to be reading along in this hyper-aware state of metacognition, and infer that your protagonist is inferring in her “real life” and see her clues and schema that help her make her inference… haHA!!¬† talk about the circle of life — this is a totally wicked version of a circle of comprehension!

p22 “I bit my lip to hide my smile.¬† Then I glanced at him again. His face was turned away, but I thought his cheek appeared lifted, as if he were smiling, too.”

{C} clues: his cheek appeared lifted¬† {S} schema:¬† something is smile worthy because it made her smile; our cheeks lift/raise up when we smile¬† {I} bella’s inference: i can’t be sure because his head is turned away so i can’t really see his face but i think he is also smiling {because that would make total sense, but i don’t KNOW so i can only INFER}

p32 “It seemed excessive for them to have both looks and money.¬† But as far as I could tell, life worked that way most of the time {S}. It didn’t look as if it bought them any acceptance here. {I} No, I didn’t fully believe that.¬† The isolation must be their desire {I}; I couldn’t imagine any door that wouldn’t be opened by that degree of beauty {S/I}.”

What else is there to say about this awesome-ness? i think the clues {C} are earlier in paragraph, i have spared you the entire passage about the shiny silver Volvo, designer clothes, remarkable good looks and wearing dishrags with style.¬† Also highlights how it is not always so neat-and-tidy as “C.S.I.” in actuality.¬† this whole quote seems to be inferential, yet bella would not have been able to think or state any of this without solidly working schema.¬† never did she say “i know this because…” but clearly she does know this {here, i think of implications of teaching and assessing this in the classroom…}.¬† i underlined what i find to be bella’s most important inference in this selection, and it also actually functions as a PREDICTION for us, the reader.¬† we don’t know yet, at this point in the story, that she is exactly correct and the cullens enjoy a degree of isolation and arm’s length interaction exactly as they have cultivated it.¬† the opposite is almost more true {me+contradiction} – their slight amount of human participation and interaction is because of their desire, without that the humans would be dead and drained and the cullens nomands on their way to their next meal.¬† but we don’t know any of this yet, on page 32.¬† bella is setting us up for the story.

{tingles, i tell you, tingles!!}

how my schema helps me

back to itsy bitsies and friends, i notice that when Jessica, Angela and Bella discuss the “gossip” about all the adopted Cullen teenage siblings living together and “dating” at the same time, using my schema (background knowledge) helps me infer to understand more fully why this causes gossip in Forks.¬† Bella says, on p21, “Her voice held all the shock and condemnation of the small town, I thought critically.¬† But, if I was being honest, I had to admit that even in Phoenix, it would cause gossip.” So, all my schema for small towns, “rules”, religious upbringing/morals, gossip and family structures helps me to understand that Forks is a small town with probably few scandalous events, so this would cause big talk for the town.¬† When Bella mentions Phoenix, my schema helps me see beyond Forks and how this might be a big deal in the larger “world”.¬† I can also make a personal connection that helps me clarify the emotions of the gossipers and the gossipees – a controversial union in the family.¬† In my experience, people are either on one side of the great divide on the issue or the other, I have not experience a lot of fence-sitting in this type of situation.¬† Applying my experience to the fictional one, I do understand better how wicked and fierce the gossip could have been, and how the condemnation was probably thick in the air and further ostricized the newcomers from the locals (since we are told humans instinctively would give them a wide berth without realizing why!).

I am making inferences here, and while I can read the words and “get” it in passing, making the connections and inferences help to extend my understanding.¬† It is a little cumbersome to explain, which has some implications for instruction and assessment in the classroom, which we see regularly.¬† It’s messy stuff.¬† I see how making the metacognition a more explicit part of the thinking makes the strategy more tangible — we can talk more about results and yield.¬† Maybe?¬† What can we A.P.E and what can we not A.P.E??

more about metacognition